The Men’s Watches To Give (Or Get) This Christmas
The six timepieces that will make the best gifts this holiday season
“It’s Christmas time,” the carollers sing. Of course, for most people, the most important word in that sentence is “Christmas”, but for the watch-obsessed among us, any mention of time is reason enough to start reviewing their watch collection. Whether you are giving or receiving, we’ve lined up six watches guaranteed to bring joy (and peerless mechanical expertise, paired with effortless and ergonomic design sensibilities) this festive season.
Santos-Dumont Skeleton 43.3mm ADLC-Coated Titanium And Alligator Watch
Talk of updating the classics tends to draw nervous looks around Christmas time. People are bound to assume you’re a fan of Maroon 5’s take on “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” or Mr Bob Dylan’s ill-fated Christmas covers album, Christmas In The Heart (from 2009; look it up and prepare yourself). But the good people at Cartier know better. When they set out to bring a modern take to the classic Santos-Dumont watch – a design that has been around in some form or other since 1904, when the eponymous Brazilian aviator took to the skies wearing Cartier’s pioneering watch – they nailed it.
We’re very much in it-shouldn’t-work-but-it-does territory here. Replacing Cartier’s trademark Roman numerals with a fully skeletonised movement where the splines of metal that hold the entire thing together turn into the hour markers themselves is an inspired move. Gone, too, are the riveted bezel and bracelet, hallmarks of the Santos design. They are replaced by a brushed-titanium case with brutalist-sharp lines and a gunmetal grey coating of scratch-proof diamond-like carbon. Like Mr John Legend covering Mr Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means To Me”, sometimes updating a classic can work.
Pilot’s Top Gun Automatic 41mm Ceramic And Webbing Watch
Most of the watches on this list embrace a fairly extrovert aesthetic. And why not? But just because you’re giving, or receiving, a watch at Christmas doesn’t mean it has to sparkle like Oxford Street on a Friday night. Better yet, commit to the all-black, Special Forces look of IWC Schaffhausen’s Pilot’s Top Gun automatic. Derived directly from watches IWC supplied to the RAF during and after WWII, the Top Gun designation hints at the modern makeover that has occurred. Specifically, the stainless steel case has been swapped for scratch-proof black ceramic and the bright white of the hours and hands traded for a matt, muted tone. Appropriately, the leather strap has made way for a hardwearing black fabric number, the better to deal with adverse conditions, whether that’s saltwater or spilled sherry.
HM9 Flow Air Limited-Edition 57mm Titanium And Leather Watch
A creative adult is a child who survived. This is one of the favourite mantras of MB&F founder Mr Max Büsser and goes a long way to explain the characterful, dramatic and eternally whimsical creations that have come from his watch brand over the past 14 years. Fond of clocks that look like rockets or spiders and watches modelled on everything from jellyfish to sports cars, he combines this off-beat aesthetic with top-drawer watchmaking and enlists the best names in the business to build and decorate his movements.
What better time than Christmas to embrace your inner child, and the MB&F HM9 Flow, a watch that draws inspiration from jet engines, 1950s racing cars and sci-fi speeders? Cased in titanium, it uses two balance wheels (visible in the bulbous sapphire outriggers) and averages their rate of rotation to provide a more accurate, reliable timekeeping service. That’s the theory, anyway. The fact that it looks ace at the same time is, of course, coincidental.
Excalibur Huracán Automatic Skeleton 45mm Titanium And Rubber Watch
No matter how palatial your residence and how enterprising you are with a roll of wrapping paper, you will struggle to fit a Lamborghini Huracán in a Christmas stocking. No such trouble with the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Huracán Automatic Skeleton, a watch that takes a great many aesthetic cues from the supercar it’s named after, from the thin struts that cross the movement (like the engine cover) to the angular facets of the skeletonised bridges below, reminiscent of Lamborghini’s polygonal styling.
Thanks to the skeletonised construction and the use of a titanium case and Alcantara strap, it’s extremely lightweight (something to remember when you’re shaking the box before you open it). The movement itself is good for 60 hours of continuous use. As for the Lambo, you just need to wrap the key and leave the car in the drive. Maybe tie a ribbon around it, hang some holly from the wing mirrors. Get creative.
H0 Hand-Wound 48.8mm Stainless Steel And Rubber Watch
While not wishing to detract one iota from the ingenuity and genuine innovation that goes into HYT’s H0 – seriously, any watch that can display the time by means of liquid flowing through a glass tube of minuscule diameter, pushed around by a pair of tiny mechanical bellows, themselves driven by a typical spring-powered automatic movement, is worthy of enormous respect – may we humbly suggest that it is the perfect watch for a lazy Christmas.
Consider this: the bright blue liquid that traverses the metallic silver dial is extremely legible, no matter how intense the post-prandial fug that descends upon you. It is also ideally suited for the kind of approximate timekeeping that Christmas requires (is it time for another meal yet?) while being capable of pinpoint accuracy should there be a debate over the turn-by-turn timing of this year’s chosen parlour game. Best of all, it has a generous 65-hour power reserve, which means, should your own physical exertions be, shall we say, not at their most energetic, the watch will keep on running until you’re able to consider going for a run yourself. OK, a walk. Fine, sitting up straighter and lifting the remote control with renewed vigour. We’re not here to judge.
Reverso Classic Large Duoface Stainless Steel And Leather Watch
The Reverso, so watchmaking lore goes, came into being as an ingenious way of avoiding damage to the glass and dial by enabling the entire case to slide out, flip over and snap back into place with the protective steel back of the case facing outwards. The gentlemen in need of such a watch were polo-playing British officers in India in the 1930s. Why they couldn’t just take off their watches before coming at each other with mallets, no one seems to have thought to ask, but it has given us one of the most enduring and beloved watch designs of the 20th century.
As time has passed, the protective rationale of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso has given way to other creative uses of the novel case design, the most obvious being to have two contrasting dial designs, one on each side, thus equipping you with a more versatile watch. That’s what you get with this Reverso Duoface: a business-like silver-white dial on the front with straightforward Arabic numerals and a jazzier, Art Deco black dial on the reverse. Cleverly, you can use each side to tell the time in different time zones or you can just swap them over as you go from day to night. In many ways, that makes it perfect for Christmas-party season, but you can’t go opening your presents early.